Anyone watching the BBC’s Bafta-winning reality TV show, The Traitors, will be familiar with the dramatic scenes at the end of each episode. The traitors, convening in a secret tower somewhere, hint at their possible victims and we cut away.
A panning shot of the beefcake doing bicep curls on the edge of his four-poster bed. A close-up of another contestant, submerged in a deep roll-top bath. The telepathic one looking into a crystal ball (and so on).
The rooms are very lavish, as you would expect at one of Scotland’s most spectacular castles. And it is all, of course, deliberately Cluedo-esque, with contestants looking nervously towards the door. But the suggestion that the contestants sleep in extravagant digs is a creative embellishment, and new details have emerged about the airport hotel where they really stay.
The show is filmed at Ardross Castle in Easter Ross, with challenges taking place in the nearby lochs and woodlands. At the end of each episode (in the UK version of the show) cars with blacked-out windows and personalised number plates come to collect the contestants, whisking them away to “individual lodgings” at an undisclosed location.
The true location of the Traitors contestants’ accommodation was first hinted at by the British actor Alan Cumming, host of the US version of the show which is also filmed at Ardross Castle.
In an interview with the Daily Beast in 2023 he said: “None of us stayed in the castle. They [the contestants] all stayed in the airport hotel at Inverness Airport. How glamorous – you come to Scotland, and you stay in the Inverness Airport hotel.”
In the US version, the contestants are filmed walking up the castle stairs each night, as if staying overnight.
“I stayed in a little house in Inverness. But I had a room in the castle where I would get made up and dressed. It had a huge bed in it. So I did actually sleep quite often, but not overnight,” he added.
Charles Shires, a former guest at the Courtyard by Marriott at Inverness Airport told The Telegraph that he stayed at the hotel in the spring of 2022.
“I was in Inverness back in May 2022, operating out of Inverness Airport, doing aerial survey flights for SSE across the Highlands. I remember I could only book one night here due to the hotel being extremely busy and had to book another hotel in Inverness town centre the following night,” he said.
When he enquired about why the hotel was so booked up, the receptionist said they were filming a “reality show” but wouldn’t confirm which one. Security was tight, says Shires: “The hotel has a central lift and each level is essentially one long corridor. The guard on my floor was sitting by the lift but in a position where he could see down the corridors and would know who was entering and leaving the rooms.
“I also asked the guard on my floor what show it was for and he also said that it was for a ‘new reality show’, but wouldn’t say which,” added Shires.
Opened in March 2020, the Courtyard by Marriott is a four-star hotel just minutes away from Inverness Airport and a 45-minute drive away from Ardross Castle, 30 miles north. There are 130 rooms at the Courtyard, with arrival and departure boards in the lobby, plus a fitness centre.
“The hotel is very clean and modern,” says Shires. “And one thing I do recall is that the rooms are very soundproof. You can’t hear any noises from adjacent rooms, and the windows don’t open. So that, combined with the guard watching the doors, it would be an ideal hotel to keep the contestants isolated from each other.”
Shires has stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott several times in the past but noticed a change from 2022 onwards: “It has been extremely hard to get a room there, and the rates seemed to be a lot higher from 2022 onwards, at least in the summer months. I think I paid £260 for one night which vastly exceeded my company budget.”
The BBC would not comment on where the Traitors contestants stayed during filming of the show.
Can I spend the night at the Traitors Castle?
Set on a former hunting estate once owned by the first Duke of Sutherland, today’s Ardross Castle – triumphant, turreted, fairytale-esque – was built in the 1840s by the banker, opium dealer and MP Alexander Matheson, before changing hands several times over the years.
Today the private residence, set in 100 acres of parkland on the banks of the River Alness, can be hired for weddings and private events (plus, of course, TV shoots), with accommodation for up to 41 guests. It is not a hotel, however, and it is not open for day trips or guided tours.
Can I visit the other places where The Traitors is shot?
The beauty of the castle and its surroundings have captured the imagination of the public. The Trainline says it has seen a 25 per cent increase in bookings to Inverness since the first series aired. One firm, Rabbies, now offers a ‘Traitors Tour’ to the Ardross area, visiting Loch Glass, where a number of the challenges take place, plus visits to the nearby Logie Falls and Glenmorangie Distillery (a 16-seat mini-coach costs £560 per day).
The most recent series of The Traitors opened with the contestants meeting at Boat of Garten station where they boarded a steam train on the Strathspey Railway. They then travelled for ten miles to Aviemore, which is actually in the wrong direction for anyone planning to reach Ardross (more than an hour away). A ticket with a “light lunch” from Aviemore to Boat of Garten, and then on to Broomhill, costs £29.50 per adult (book ahead).
The aerial shots of the train, curving around the Glenfinnan Viaduct, are, alas, not geographically accurate either. This iconic stretch of track, made famous in the Harry Potter films, is located in the West Highlands around 74 miles from Aviemore. The Jacobite Steam Train operates services on the line, although its future is under threat due to health and safety concerns around its door-locking mechanisms.
Another filming location in the show is Ardross Church (known as Ardross Ark) which is located just outside the castle grounds. The volunteer-run church hosts community events and describes itself as “a sanctuary where you can pause, breathe, and find a quiet moment for yourself to gather your thoughts, visions, and ideas.”